As part of its examination into the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) yearbook scandal, in which an unidentified figure appeared in blackface on Ralph Northam’s profile page, investigators with the McGuire Woods law firm considered a piece of evidence submitted by Northam’s personal law firm, Alston & Bird: a facial recognition report. “This report, conducted by a reputable vendor,” summarized the McGuire Woods report, “found the image of the Photograph was not of sufficient quality to conduct a comparison with other photographs.”
While the photograph is of such poor quality that facial-recognition analysis may be impossible, there is much else than can be gleaned from the photo. I have made the argument in previous posts that the figure in blackface was dressed in Michael Jackson costume.
States the reader: “I noticed that the figure in the yearbook photo stood in a somewhat awkward way, with his body leaning left but his head tilted to the right (from the vantage of the viewer).” He pulled photos of Northam off the Web for purposes of comparison. “This is not unbiased evidence because I selected photos that worked, rather than doing a random sampling of photos. But it does show that the way Northam stands at times does appear to be similar to the yearbook photo. A chiropractor might be able to untangle this!”
One can “prove” anything if one is willing to cherry pick the supporting data, and our clever reader is open about what he has done. The photos he submitted are for purposes of illustration. The salient point is not that the reader has demonstrated that Blackface Dude and Northam are one in the same but that he has opened up a new avenue of inquiry for determining if they are.
Northam does have a distinctive way of holding his head. And he does have a distinctive slope to his shoulders. I am particularly sensitive to the latter point, as one of my shoulders rests lower than the other, a factor my tailor must take into account when measuring a new suit. Not all people are built the same. If Blackface Dude and Northam can be shown to share similar physical characteristics, the likelihood increases that Northam was in the photo and the likelihood diminishes that somehow a random photograph got inserted into his yearbook page by error.
Did the Alston & Bird facial recognition report consider these points in its analysis? The McGuire Woods report gives us no clue whether the “facial-recognition” report reviewed information in the photo other than the face itself, nor does it tell us what limitations Northam might have put on the query, nor what caveats the report might have contained. Northam has it in his power to clear up these issues by making the Alston & Bird report available to the public.
In the meantime, this is precisely the kind of analysis that Virginia citizens can perform themselves — not with the goal of proving a pre-determined outcome but of getting to the truth, whatever it is.There are currently no comments highlighted.